CLEMSON, South Carolina — Clemson scientist Jeffrey Anker and four colleagues have been awarded a five-year, $1.57 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a novel imaging technique and dye-based sensor to detect and monitor bacterial infections on implanted medical devices.
Approximately one in 25 patients admitted to a hospital in the U.S. will acquire an infection, leading to a reported 99,000 deaths per year. The majority of these hospital-acquired infections involve bacteria growing on implanted medical devices. These devices include metal plates and rods for bone fracture repairs; artificial knees, ankles and hips; prosthetic heart valves, pacemakers and artificial hearts; and urinary and intravascular catheters. Though infections are rare in most implant surgeries, implant-associated infections are difficult and expensive to cure.
“Bacterial colonization of medical implants is a major cause of device failure and often requires device removal coupled with long-term antibiotic treatment,” said Anker, associate professor of chemistry in Clemson University’s College of Science, with a joint appointment in bioengineering. “However, detection is challenging at early stages when the bacteria are localized to inaccessible regions of the implant. Our research will focus on developing sensors that will coat the implant. Then we’ll use X-ray beams to scan the sensors, enabling us to detect and monitor the infection.”
With current technologies, there is no effective way to monitor these kinds of infections, either at early stages or during antibiotic treatment when bacteria are not found in the blood. Doctors need a method to monitor the resistant bacteria localized at the implant surface to treat implant infections at early stages and to determine if infections are eradicated.